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Why so few Messianic songs on repentance?

I’m a Messianic music aficionado. It’s why I created Chavah, the best darn Messianic internet radio on the web. It’s why I’ve been amassing Messianic music chord sheets and putting them on the opened web.

Judah knows Messianic music.

I sat down tonight to pick out some music to play for our congregation this upcoming shabbat. Seeing as how we’re approaching Yom Kippur, a time for repentance, I wanted to select some songs that would move the hearts of our congregants towards God in repentance.

I was a bit surprised to find out there’s virtually no Messianic music about repentance.

Why is this?

There are plenty of songs about God’s forgiveness, mind you: Boskey’s Depths of the Sea, Chernoff’s There’s a Wind, or Lamb’s Yeshua Means Salvation, for example, all sing the praises of God’s great forgiveness and mercy. And Steve McConnell’s Yom Kippur song mentions only atonement, not repentance.

Granted, there are a good number of songs encouraging the praiser to turn to God, which implicitly suggests teshuva, turning, repenting. And plenty on God’s atonement through Yeshua, and so many on the great sacrifice of the Lamb.

Still, there are almost zero Messianic songs directly about repentance. Searching my massive Messianic song chord stash for “repent” yields non-Messianic songs like Yosef Karduner’s Hashivenu or Simcha Kanter’s Elu V’elu Oimrim.

I am curious to know the cause for this lack of focus on personal repentance in Messianic music. I suspect it’s a subtle leftover from Christian theology, where, as one Christian once told me, “God forgives you even if you don’t repent – grace!” It would explain why there are a good number of songs on God’s forgiveness, but so few on personal repentance.

Fine blog reader, can you explain to me why are there so few Messianic songs on repentance?


  1. "Fine blog reader, can you explain to me why are there so few Messianic songs on repentance?"

    Judah, I think your Christian friend gave you the perfect answer - (cheap and unbiblical) "grace" that eschews repentance as "works". Messianic movement started as and still very much is a Protestant Evangelical American movement, and it has not moved much from its moorings.

  2. Sanity check: can someone find me a psalm about repentance? I'm doing a bit of searching here, certain there are psalms about repentance, but I can't find them.

    Perhaps that is an explanation for few songs on repentance.

    (Obviously, I can find repentance in the Scriptures, like Lamentations and Hosea, just not in the Psalms...)

  3. Great observation, Judah. No answers for you here, bro...I can only think of one ("Fall Upon Us Now" by Bruce Cohen).

    The traditional Avinu Malkenu melody is closely associated with penitential prayers. And especially appropriate for Yom Kippur is "El Rachum v'Chanun," the listing of the 13 attributes of God's character as revealed to Moses when Moses went to intercede on behalf of Israel for the golden calf incident. It gets sung several times during traditional Yom Kippur services...

  4. LOL. Forget, I'm going to consult Lasko from now on. :-)

    Thanks for the tip about "Fall Upon Us Now. That song didn't strike me as about repentance primarily, but you're right, it does start "we have sinned against your name", confessing and repenting for sin. Good catch.

  5. Because no one has written any (it's up to you, Judah)? I'd tend to agree that it's because Messianic Judaism has much of its functional and theological tradition in classic Christianity, hence the focus on grace as opposed to personal accountability. AT the core, even the most "strict" Messianic Jewish groups are at heart "Christian".

  6. A great question. On first thought, is repentance something to be sung about? It could be construed as bragging that one repented, although I don't think thats what you had in mind. I wonder if some of the "testimony-story" songs done by McConnell or Marty Goetz might fit into the repentance category. Also some of the 1970s stuff done by Liberated wailing wall might fit. - "I am not ashamed" by Dauermann might be one for example.

  7. Anah Adonia by Marty Goetz.... Anah is the same word used for "Humble yourselves" in Lev 16 which is about Yom Kippur!

  8. '"one Christian once told me, “God forgives you even if you don’t repent – grace!”'

    This POV is a real problem. As if forgiveness is a one sided transaction...

    songs on/about repentance? or songs OF repentance?

    Singing about repenting isn't something that I think would be interesting....HOWEVER, singing songs OF repentance...This could be handy.

    I suspect you are right, Judah: it's a left over from Christian theology. Not the good "OH YEAH!! TIHS WAS AWESOME!" kind of left over either...more like the "I know why I've left this in the fridge for so long" kind.

    It seems to me that we (the young musicians within MJism) have an opportunity to write some songs.

  9. Hey Judah. L'shannah Tovah!!

    As a song writer and Messianic Jew I find your question odd. Namely because I can think of about 10 of my 100 songs deal with the subject of repentance in some way. But perhaps your question was more directed to "Messianic Worship" songs. In which case there are many simple answers.

    1. Repentance is mostly talked about from a personal not a corporate level. Thus, corporate worship songs generally don't deal with true repentance.

    2. Repentance songs often require admission of vulnerability. Thus incurring uncomfortable emotion on the part of the singer and/or audience in a corporate setting.

    3. It is hard to adequately musically and lyrically depict repentance in a way that inspires others to follow suit.


    Beyond these explanations it should be noted that Christians are an offshoot of Jewish Messianism and therefore by strict definition their songs should be considered Messianic as well.

    But perhaps the most compelling explanation is that most messianic musicians have tried to avoid catering their songs of repentance to a clandestine group. While my songs are repentant in nature their appeal is to those in need of greater repentance. Thus, most messianic songwriters choose the secular market as the idea place for their music.

    Why preach to the hard-hearted choir about repentance? They will give you lip service and stone you afterwards. Better to preach to sinner and get stoned first followed by true repentance...

  10. Schiffman mentioned testimony-story songs by Goetz and McConnell. One that comes to mind now is McConnell's Lord Knows And Remembers. It is one that does move the worshipper to repentance, even though the song itself, like many of the psalms, doesn't explicitly mention repentance. He also mentioned one of Dauermann's songs. I need to get a hold of more of his songs -- I know of only a handful. Where can one buy Dauermann's music? Google just found a bunch of dead links for me.

    Jesse mentioned Goetz's Ana Adonai. I always thought of that song as crying out to the Lord to save us. (Ana Adonai Hosheana = Please, Lord, save us -- right?) Now that he mentions it, that does point toward repentance, even though it does not directly mention it.

    And earlier Jonathan Lasko mentioned Bruce Cohen's Fall Upon Us Now.

    So it would seem there are indeed some Messianic songs of repentance, though most (all?) do not explicitly mention repentance.

  11. Rods and Jonathan Roush,

    I wasn't aware both of you were so involved in Messianic music.

    Do either of you have music for sale? (Or for free?) I'd love to get your music on Chavah.

  12. Most of Dauermann's music was in his JFJ days,so you would have to look for it in Liberated Wailing Wall albums.

  13. Judah,

    You're right,
    אנא ה' הושיע נא means "please HaShem, save now/please".

    The word אנא (ana) means 'please'. It is entirely unrelated to the word ענו (`anaw) which means 'humble'.

    The word used in Lev. 16 regarding Yom HaKipurim is עניתם meaning "you(plural) should inflict" and its root word is related to the word for "humble".

    Lack of understanding Hebrew is a huge problem and often breeds afeikoros ideas (like the disbelief in Oral Torah). This is so because all translations, including English translations, are often misleading because they're just that: translations.

    Only someone who understands Hebrew is aware of to what extent this is true. People who consider Hebrew to be like Chinese to them have no idea, because they don't understand the difficulty of translating Hebrew into unrelated languages. Especially the translations of Hebrew idioms and figures of speech, or words which have connotations and deeper meanings in Jewish culture.

  14. Thanks for clarifying, Aaron. I wish my Heb skillz were on par with yours. :-)

  15. Please all, check out my new blog post on the subject of repentance, very timely for the days we're in both the time of year and the general overall era we're in.

  16. music for sale or for free.

    Yahnatan and I (along with our wives) have taken a strong interest in creating new music...and in taking old music and reimagining it new in...different ways. haha
    We've been doing it for a little under a year and so far so good @ Beth Messiah and at the UMJC east conference.

    I know we have promised some folks a recording (live) of our "Mi Kamocha". If you are interested, we can add you to the list for when we get around it.

  17. Jon, that sounds freaking amazing. Add me to the list, I want to hear Jon and Yahnatan do some tunes for the Lord.

  18. Shalom shalom Judah. Congratulations on your 7th wedding anniversary. I am writing from Singapore. Such a lovely couple.

    You are so great. So happy to have found you. I truly appreciate you posting messianic songs and lyrics with Chords too! Such a treat for me. Its been very difficult trying to get messianic chords online.

    Meanwhile, if you have chords for Yom Kippur will be so great. This song has such an anointing in bringing me into God's presence and releasing my heart to Yeshua.

    Thankful heart. - Carol

  19. Hi Carol,

    I'm happy to meet you, and I'm glad you enjoy the Messianic chord sheets.

    You mentioned you're looking for the chords for the song "Yom Kippur." I know of Steve McConnell's Yom Kippur song, the chords to that are here: Steve McConnell - Yom Kippur


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